Well, it turns out I should not be so fearful, as there are products that are made specifically for washing delicate (and not so delicate, but chunky!) knitwear.
With a little know how and some experiments that have turned out just fine, I'm no longer so aprehensive about washing my knitted treasures.
Soak Wash is one company that gets my fears. They have created a line of beautifully packaged, very gentle soaps that do exactly what they are supposed to.
I wouldn't even call them "soaps," as the word "soap" often means harsh detergents that require lots of suds, aggitation, and rinsing to work effectively.
They call it a "no-rinse wash," which is way more accurate.
It's intended for delicate fabrics, wool sweaters, newly knitted projects. and more. I used it to block my recently released #174 Simpatico Alpaca Stole, which was knit in an Alpaca wool blend.
I got a few dark-colored beach towels (this yarn does bleed in the wash a bit) ready on the bathroom floor. I filled my bathroom sink with some water and the recommended amount of Soak Wash (just a capful!). Then, I stuck the stole in and let it soak for 15 minutes. I do admit to rinsing very gently a few times, as I wanted to get some of the dye out in the water (vs. on me or my clothes!), but I was very careful not to aggitate it in any way - NO wringing, just gentle squeezes against the side of the sink to get most of the water out.
Then, I picked up the stole gently (didn't want the alpaca to stretch!), supporting the whole thing, and laid it out flat on one of the beach towels. I topped it with the other beach towel, then rolled all 3 layers together (like an alpaca sandwichl!). I pressed down on it using my whole body weight to get all the wetness out into the towels.
Then, it was transfered to my blocking board and pinned out to dry.
The result: a NICELY-blocked, subtly-scented stole! Very happy with the resulting stitch definition and softness too ;-)
So, I do highly recommend you try Soak Wash to make an otherwise tedious chore much better.
Soak Wash is also biodegradable and phosphate-free. They offer a scentless version too. More information on Soak Wash is available through their website at: http://www.soakwash.com/ and you can purchase Soak Wash through many online and local yarn shops.
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY! I'VE GOT TWO BOTTLES OF SOAK WASH TO SEND TO TWO LUCKY WINNERS:
HOW TO ENTER: You can do one or more of the following to enter.
1) Make a pattern purchase from SweaterBabe.com of any knitting pattern, crochet pattern, or eBook pattern collection from now until November 30, 2013. Every purchase counts as an entry, so feel free to make multiple purchases to be entered multiple times! NOTE: Excludes free patterns.
2) Be a SweaterBabe.com Knitting Club Member through the end of November. All Members will automatically get counted for 2 entries for this giveaway. To join, it's just $7.99/month, and you get all new releases of knitting patterns automatically every month, plus special members-only knit-alongs, giveaways, and more! And if you join now, your payment counts as a purchase entry too!
3) Post a comment on this blog post telling us what you think of washing your finished knits. One comment per person, please. AND share this giveaway: , or share it on Facebook! Comments must be posted by 9pm PST, November 30, 2013.
Shortly after November 30, I'll randomly choose 2 entrants - one will receive the Lacey-Scented Soak Wash and the other the Celebration-Scented one.
THAT'S IT! Good luck to all!
*** WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT ***
And the 2 randomly chosen winners from all the entries are. . . Paula S., who made a pattern purchase on 11/7/13 and Sharon M., a SweaterBabe.com Club member. Congrats! I've emailed you both!